Daniel Lemire's blog

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Writing alone: benefits and pitfalls

Yesterday, I wrote about the types of collaboration we commonly observe in science. Today, I want to spend 5 minutes thinking about what happens when you write a science paper alone.


  • New projects can emerge and die quickly.
  • You set your own standards.
  • You increase your range of skills by having to do all of the work.


  • It takes slighly longer to write a paper alone since you cannot share the workload.
  • The feedback loop is slow: you can waste months or years without anyone telling you how stupid you are.
  • It is easier to go unnoticed when you work alone.

I believe that you can alleviate some of the pitfalls:

  • Do experimental work early and often. Nature is the best coauthor.
  • Read a lot and keep an open mind. Do not become overspecialized.
  • Manage your time tightly.
  • Make your work widely available.